30 November 2022

Teacher spotlight on David Taylor, year 1 teacher at Horton Grange Primary School, Bradford

"The one-to-one model has a big impact, and it isn't just about the child reading the words...[the] consistent 30 minutes a week of an adult’s time makes a big difference to a child."

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David Taylor shared his thoughts on Chapter One's Online Volunteer Reading programme with us...

What are the benefits of the Chapter One's programme for Horton Grange Primary School?

This is my third year of involvement with the programme as a year 1 class teacher. Having Chapter One's Online Volunteer Reading programme in the classroom is like having an extra pair of hands. It gives children an additional half an hour a week of one-to-one reading that really supports the individual child. The training that we are given by Sue Richardson, the programme manager for Bradford and Leeds schools, is really useful. Sue makes sure everything is set up properly in the classroom for the year ahead and helps us communicate with parents as well. To support parents when signing their children up to the programme, Chapter One has not only allowed parents to sign up via a web link, they have also given us the flexibility to get signed paper consent forms from parents. This year Sue’s tried out a new approach to supporting with the registration process by organising a coffee morning for parents, inviting them into school to learn more about how Chapter One can support their children. This has enabled us to get consents done there and then on a computer. That personal approach has worked really well.

We love Chapter One so much here at Horton Grange that we're rolling it out in year 3 as well as having it in year 1 and 2 classrooms.

So there is no stigma for a child who is taking part in the programme?
No, it’s really the opposite! Every child wants to be on the programme!

Why do you think Chapter One's Online Reading Volunteer programme is so effective at helping children who have been struggling with learning to read?
The one-to-one model has a big impact, and it isn't just about the child reading the words; the tutor also does quizzes and comprehension questions with them to check that they have understood what they have just read. The social aspect of the programme has a big impact too. Even though the volunteer and the child don’t see each other’s face, unless they manage to meet up at the end-of-year celebration, they still develop a good learning relationship. That one-to-one, consistent 30 minutes a week of an adult’s time makes a big difference to a child.

What impact have you seen on the children in terms of reading and confidence levels?
Reading with Chapter One volunteers has definitely boosted their reading levels; and the programme definitely contributes to children making accelerated progress. But I think the biggest boost is in their overall confidence - it affects everything that they do. Part of that is their increased reading confidence, but it is also because they are having conversations with the reading volunteer. At the start of the school year, children can be reluctant to try the reading sessions, perhaps because they've never had a telephone conversation before, but after just a couple of sessions they become more comfortable.

The volunteers are like an extra pair of hands in the classroom

- David Taylor, Year 1 teacher

What are the benefits of the reading being remote and not in person?
I think the biggest benefit is scheduling because, in the classroom environment, we often require an amount of flexibility within the school day. The Chapter One platform makes it easy to reschedule and the tutors have been very accommodating. If we're not in the classroom, for whatever reason, when the volunteer’s call is supposed to be coming though, then I can just send them a quick message over the Chapter One platform, apologise and let them know when we're back in the classroom. They can then call back later that day or later in the week. It is clear that volunteers delivering the Chapter One programme are provided with fantastic training and bespoke tools, that we as a school would be unable to provide, which is why we really value all of the tutors that support our children.

After every single reading session the children have the biggest smiles and they're desperate to tell you about what they've been doing, what they've been reading and what they've learnt from the quizzes and games that they've completed. It’s amazing to see the enthusiasm for learning, just from that half-hour call. After pretty much every single call, you'll see that on the children's faces. There's a real buzz in the classroom as well, with the other children wanting to know what the Chapter One children have been doing. At the beginning of the school year that can be a little bit disruptive, but it soon becomes part of the routine. You even hear the children talking about their reading volunteers at break times!

So, on the whole, would you say the programme runs itself?
It does, yes. The Chapter One team suggests that we delegate to a child the job of ‘helper’ to answer the in-coming calls from volunteers and then fetch the relevant child. But, personally, I find it easy to write down on a whiteboard the times and the names of the children who are on the call that day and then when the laptop rings I just send the child over and they answer the call. That works really well for me.

We had a few glitches in the past, in the earlier days, but they seem to have been ironed out. For us the biggest challenge can be the sign-up process at the start of the year as some of our parents do not have access to electronic devices or require some assistance. This is overcome by having those paper copies and a coffee morning where we can support our parents, which really helps. Once parents have signed up and given their consent, it's all pretty much plain sailing.

What message do you have for our reading volunteers or anyone thinking of signing their company up as a corporate partner?
First of all - thank you! I think the volunteers should know just how much of a difference they are making to these children’s lives. It's not just about teaching them to read, it's about their overall confidence. Being so young, especially in year 1, if their confidence is knocked, then they can find it really difficult to catch up. If they're given that boost of an extra half an hour a week of someone reading with them, an adult’s time dedicated just to them, then it really does have the power to transform their lives.

I think the volunteers should know just how much of a difference they are making to these children’s lives

- David Taylor, Year 1 teacher